Don’t pack trouble into your travel

Packing for everything
Packing for April in Paris

Bucket List item:  Buy an Entire New Travel Wardrobe so I won’t end up in the following predicament ever again 🙂  Two birds w/one stone:  Climb to the Top of the Eiffel Tower 

Few things fill me with ambivalence the way packing does. It’s important to have wardrobe choices, especially when travelling, but over-packing can ruin a trip—and make a travel partner not so happy.  :-//
A light packer until I got married, the realization hit me that I could finally pack like a Boy Scout. My new packing motto became “Be Prepared” since I had my new knight-in-shining-armor to bear the burden of the extra stuff it took for me to be prepared.

For the first couple of years my husband dutifully went along, but eventually he decided he’d had enough. I should have seen it coming. We were leaving for France, and there was an unusual twinkle in his eye as he packed my two suitcases into the trunk.

“Remember,” he said, “I have my bag and my carry-on to keep up with.” It was then he turned and looked me square in the eye and asked, “Are you really sure you want to take all of this? You also have your carry-on and we will be moving around a lot.”  He had never questioned me before about my bags, but I did have one bag more than usual.

To be fair, we were going to be in France for over three weeks.  Our itinerary included everything from hiking along the Normandy coast to dining with a Marquis in his Loire Valley chateau. And then there was Paris. So of course all of my wardrobe bases had to be covered. Also, it was April.

“The weather is sooo unpredictable in April—you said so yourself,” I told him as he loaded the luggage into the car. One bag was quite large, the other fairly small—carry-on size, and then there was my actual carry-on.  It’s important to note that this was back when the wheels on bags seemed to be merely an afterthought to luggage makers. The large bag had these tiny little wheels and the rubber had already worn almost completely off, but hey, it had wheels so I really didn’t see that it would be too much trouble. Hah! Was I wrong.

I discovered this by the middle of our trip. The remaining rubber on one wheel had finally worn down to metal making the bag lopsided. We were leaving Paris and my husband decided we should take the Métro across Paris to get to the outskirts of the city where we were to pick up our car.

“Why can’t we take a taxi?” I asked.

“We have plenty of time and we’ll save a lot of money,” he said.

It was early morning rush hour at the station and mobs of people were making their way in and out of the Métro. My husband, with his bags and his map, was clearing the way for me and my bags. Up until that point I had been trying to make a game out of my fight to keep the large bag from toppling over. Down the first flight of steps and toward the underground, and down the next step when suddenly everything started to go wrong.

The large bag fell over and began tumbling down the second flight of steps, with me trying desperately to hang on to it. My struggle had gone unnoticed until this moment, and I remember looks of horror on the faces of the people who turned to see the ruckus going on behind them. Depending on where they were, people either rushed to clear the way or stopped to stare. I said a little prayer that no one would get hurt. Lucky for me, no one got hit or knocked over.  When it was all over I sat down on my bags in the middle of the station and cried. The tears started flowing and would not stop.  “You weren’t helping,” was all I could manage to get out between sobs.  

My husband suddenly felt very bad.  He grabbed my hand.   “I’ll take the big one.  Forgive me?” He asked as he gave me his small bag. “I’m so sorry. I should have called a taxi.”  

But it was I who owed him the apology.

And that wasn’t quite the end of it either. We made it down into the train, then out and up all the steps, out of the station, and to the car.  But the car was too small for all of our stuff.  I don’t know how he did it, but my husband finally managed to make everything fit.  He turned out to be the knight-in-shining-armor after all.

France - Packing it all in
France – Packing it all in
I wasn’t completely reformed, but I was determined to build a travel wardrobe that would give me choices and also fit in one small bag. I still over-pack occasionally, but never do I pack with the expectation that someone else will make my load easier. I only pack what I can reasonably expect to carry myself.

Besides that, here are some of my tips for packing:

1. Make a list & stick to it
2. Work around one central color theme—preferably a dark color such as black
3. Make sure everything goes with everything else
4. Pack fabrics that dry quickly so they can be washed out and hung to dry overnight
5. Take scarves–they can change up an outfit and keep tops looking fresh
6. Take only items that can be layered or do double duty
7. Carry a thin cashmere shawl that can be used as a light blanket

These must haves are packed according to destination (and space available 🙂):

-Black dress – long or short

-Black leggings

-Cashmere pullover

-Rain jacket with hood

-Lycra top and yoga pants

-Swimsuit with a sarong or cover-up

-T-shirts in black & white

-Wrinkle free button down shirt

-Black jeans and/or white jeans

-Leather jacket

-Black ballet slippers for wearing on the plane & in hotel room

-Flip flops for the shower

-Hiking boots or walking shoes

-Oh, and always pack a sparkly top ✨

The most important thing is to have a plan and stick to it.  After a trip, keep notes on what worked and what didn’t for the next trip.

Below are photos of some of my must haves–and they all fit in my carry-on.

Here’s wishing you safe & happy travels ❤️✨ and that you can get everything you need in one small, easy to manage bag 😊

Sparkles leather and jeans
Sparkles, leather, and stretchy (comfy) jeans
Pack scarves
Scarves add color and protect tops
Pack jackets and sweaters
Jackets, and sweaters, and cover-ups, oh my!
Pack lightweight tops that go with everything
Pack lightweight tops that go with all colors
Pack a little black dress
Pack a little black dress
Pack everything in one bag
Make sure you can pack everything in one bag
Kodiak makes hiking boots for all weather
Kodiak makes hiking boots for all weather and conditions (I just bought my 2nd pair 🙂
© 2017 jsf

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My luggage is where?!

Jet into the pink sunset
Delta jet landing at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport
“So glad we missed that big Delta snafu,” I told my husband and son as we walked into the airport. My son and I were headed to Sweden, where he would be in school for the next year. I had just completed a rigorous MBA program and planned to do some idle wandering myself for a couple of weeks once I got him settled in. 

The Delta meltdown initially appeared to be over. Check-in and security were a breeze, but as we approached our departure gate, it was clear the flood waters were still rising. We were in a sea of long lines and long faces of tired and angry people who could do nothing but wait. I’ll spare the details, but my son and I ended up on different flights, through different connecting cities, in different countries.  

My son’s flight departed without a hitch. Mine, not quite. After a delay of nearly two hours, reportedly due to weather conditions, I saw a crew depart with their bags. I realized then that we were not going anywhere any time soon and if I continued to wait, I would not make the connecting flight to Stockholm. It could be a day or two before I arrived. 

I had no way to contact my son at this point, and he had no idea where our hotel was. Uh oh. Forgot to give him a copy of the itinerary. We were so busy that little detail had slipped our minds. 

Upset, I had to do something. There was no gate agent, so I left the boarding area and queued up behind passengers patiently exchanging airport adventure stories. We noted which agents seemed helpful and which ones took too long. 

After over half an hour, I was thankful to have gotten “the pleasant guy.” Cheerful, and sympathetic to my ordeal, he was just as we had deduced. The Delta agent kindly booked me on a KLM flight that would get me to Stockholm 20 minutes after my son. Yes! Go Delta. 

“There is probably time to pull your bags off the flight so they can arrive with you,” he told me. 

“Yay,” I said. If I’m lucky, I thought.

But the bags did not make it onto the plane with me. And unfortunately, those were the bags filled with all of my son’s worldly winter possessions– coats, boots, sweaters– all the things he would need for the freezing Swedish winter ahead. Plus, my things were in there too. The agent had checked both bags under my ticket, neither under his. How did I miss that?  

I really wasn’t concerned at all, though. In over 20+ years of flying all over the world, none of us has ever had a bag go missing permanently. Misdirected bags have always been located and delivered within 2-3 days. So, I filled out the claim form (This is very important! If your bag does not show up, do NOT leave the airport without filling out a claim form) and we were on our way. 

I checked in with both KLM and Delta every day. “One is at Charles de Gaulle and on its way!” and “One never left JFK. It will go out tonight!” I was told. If only those bags could phone home. By the fourth day when we were leaving Stockholm for Jönköping, and still no bags, I worried.  

Stockholm, Sweden our luggage never made it
It was finally time to leave Stockholm – and still no bags

Finally, one bag was delivered to our hotel in Jönköping seven days later, but the other bag, the most important one with the winter gear was never located. Fortunately, I had a list of items packed and a photo of our suitcase, which made filling out the claim form much easier. Below are tips I have learned over the years and from this experience:

Before travelling:

  • Give everyone travelling a copy of the itinerary – and leave a copy with someone at home
  • Make a list of everything you pack
  • Photograph your bag
  • Tag all bags both inside & out with your name & number
  • Pack 2-3 days of clothing in a carry-on
  • Keep all necessities such as medicine in your carry-on
  • Do not check anything valuable such as camera equipment or jewelry. 



If your bag doesn’t show up:

  • File a claim form before leaving the airport
  • Leave a detailed itinerary with the airline
  • Read & carefully follow all filing instructions
  • Watch out for deadlines
  • Keep copies of all related forms and receipts
  • Don’t cash a check if the amount is in dispute

Some things are not covered under airline rules. Read the rules before booking your ticket and pack accordingly. If the amount of your claim is in dispute and the airline sends you a check, you are most likely settling your claim for that amount if you cash it. But that is a legal question and I am not an attorney.  

Sweden was lovely, and we both learned a few lessons. Delta reimbursed us, but I would love to know where that bag finally ended up. If only bags could talk 🙂

Here’s wishing you safe & happy travels– and that your bags make it ❤️✨

© 2017 jsf.